|Raising the Bar - The Battle for the 2004 NPC Delaware State, East Coast Classic DVD Review
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REVIEW OF THE DVD
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Raising the Bar
The Inside Story of a Life in Bodybuilding
A Video by Mike Pulcinella
June 21, 2003
At the time of 2003, Dave had not competed in bodybuilding for seven years. His whole family thought he was done. But he wasn't. At the age of 39, he was planning a return to competition.
20 Weeks out
Click Here For Pictures From the DVD
Right off the bat, the production qualities of this DVD were quite evident. There was mellow music in the background, excellent photo quality, and good narration (also, Mike had a great voice to be a narrator). It seemed sort of "Hollywood" and is a type of feature that is rare in bodybuilding. Training DVDs exist, contest videos exist, and some others of the norm exist, but how many documentaries are there in bodybuilding? Not many at all (other than the docudrama "Pumping Iron"). So this was a welcome addition to my bodybuilding video collection in that it is so unique.
Dave was seen pretty early in the video and was a very thick dude. He was in a t-shirt and also in a tank top and you could see he was close to pro size. Mike mentioned sarcastically that he was conspicuous with his camera. Tell me about it. I had a friend film me training once for some footage which I was going to put on the website and we definitely stood out.
Adam Gamido was the novice entering the same competition as Dave. He was 27 years old and training for the show. Some training footage was shown and Adam was a big guy, but not nearly Dave's size (they were in different weight classes). Dave was suggesting that Adam might drop out of the show when he realizes the difficulty of the diet. Adam explained that he lost a lot of his mass in the marine corps. It is a misconception that the marine corps or the army in general would bring you up - with all the cardio you may exit more fit than you were previously, but I would doubt you will turn out more muscular than before.
Mike asked a great question: "What motivates you guys to work as hard as you do?" and Dave's answer was even better, saying that it would be hard for him NOT to do it. Great answer, and perfectly understandable to other competitors and people who take on difficult tasks out of love.
Victor Delcampo's training was featured next in the DVD. I didn't realize until I researched him on the internet, but he was 5'2 in height. He appeared to be quite a bit taller (possibly due to his imposing physique and overall proportions).
Al Pulcinella (Dave's dad) was interviewed next and said he was very proud of his son's achievements at his previous show. His dad explained that he worries about Dave. This was understandable since comptetitive bodybuilding takes on several risks. For one there is the hard training which can result in torn muscles or other injuries. There is the obvious heavy juice requirements - or at least using steroids, period. Whether they are used at great doses or not varies depending on the individual, but it is just about impossible to be competitive as a natural bodybuilder. On top of this, it is often the amateurs who are the hungriest and most likely to abuse anabolic-androgenic steroids. Not to mention the less obvious time devotion that bodybuilding requires. The nutrition behind it is practically a full time job in itself (how practical is it to eat 6-10 times a day when you work a full time job?). These are all legimitate concerns and I can only assume that these are the types of things his dad was worried about. Some pictures of Dave's father were shown and he was in great shape when he was younger. No doubt his father was pretty big into working out back in the day.
Dave explained that he was going through some injuries and that he would have to figure out a way to get around them in the 19 weeks leading up to the show in a way which would stimulate growth to happen. This didn't make much sense to me as it is not really a bodybuilder's goal to gain muscle leading up to a show, but to burn fat and get shredded while preserving as much muscle as possible. In any case, I knew what Dave meant - you still want to work your hardest going up to a show, and injuries could very well prevent this.
Dave said that he wanted to enter the Delaware show to raise the bar and get all the best bodybuilders in the state to get out of the woodwork and do the show. His plan was to get all the best bodybuilders to compete to BEAT THEM ALL IN 2004!! MUAHAHAHAHA. Now this is what ultimately happened, but what would have become of this documentary if Dave hadn't won? Makes me wonder.
Dave's girlfriend was 24 and also competing in figure competitions (as Mike said, something between bodybuilding and bikini contests).
Another competitor, Vicky, was 44 years old and had been retired for a decade! Her plan was to compete in figure and not bodybuilding, which would require a fair bit of different preparation.
Sammy Segara had won the middleweight class at the Bodyrock in Virginia which is a National qualifier. He would also be 40 that year (same age as Dave). He was planning to compete with Dave, so it would definitely be a competitive field. Some photos were shown in the DVD of Dave and he was looking freaky - very thick. His height and build gives him an extremely powerful look. His torso is long and he looks like he has a very solid foundation (he's probably pretty strong in the basic heavy lifts).
Next up, Dave was watching the 2004 Arnold Classic on Payperview. He didn't want Jay Cutler to win and Jay won! WHAT A BUNCH OF CRAP. Dave said it and I agree completely. I would have put Jay fourth after Chris Cormier, Dexter Jackson, and Gunter Schlierkamp. Yep - FOURTH. He was at his all time worst shape. It looked like he was starving compared to his usual performances. This is what sucks about the politics of bodybuilding - when ludicrous shit like this happens. Jay didn't deserve to win. Dave knew it, Chris Cormier knew it, as did Dexter and Gunter, and I knew it, as well as tons of fans. But of course if you are the reigning champ, you automatically win every succeeding time you enter that show whether you deserve to or not. OK, so Jay got a gift in first - there have definitely been times where he entered shows and probably should have won when he came in second. While I disagree that the 2001 Mr. Olympia was one of them, some others would say he was the winner.
Dave's dad said that Dave had not much to gain and everything to lose if he entered the Delaware show. This was pretty much the truth. Why win it once then come second the next year? It would suggest to the fans and the judges that the bodybuilder in question has regressed in terms of physique quality - and who wants that? Apparently, there were IFBB judges who agreed with Dave's dad. I would have agreed as well. Unless a person is competing solely for the fun of it.
Dave was again watching the Arnold classic, seeing Mustafa Mohammad on the stage looking FANTASTIC (hell, better than Jay), only to have come second last! Yet another ridiculous decision at the show. You have to love the 2003 Arnold Classic results: (1) Jay Cutler, (2) Chris Cormier, (3) Markus Ruhl, (4) Dexter Jackson. UMM...Is this a JOKE??? So we're judging by the standard (1) big and shredded, (2) shapely and symmetrical, (3) big and shredded, (4) shapely and symmetrical??? Yeah, makes a lot of sense (sarcasm). There is apples and oranges BUT YOU CAN'T HAVE BOTH IN THE SAME DAMN SHOW. Get your head out of your asses, judges. Reminds me of the 2004 Mr. Olympia when Ronnie beat Dexter in the abs and thigh challenge but Dexter had previously beat Markus Ruhl. WTF?? So having wide hanging lats and huge thighs was the excuse they had for Ronnie winning but the EXACT SAME ARGUMENT couldn't be used to defend Markus' victory because it didn't exist - he didn't win, because apparently the judges change their standards to suit the needs of who wins the show. For the record, I DO think Ronnie deserved the abs and thigh challenge because he had a superior taper and greater thighs than Dexter - BUT SO DID MARKUS. Notice how Ronnie didn't win the challenge round in 2005? Why? Because his victory wasn't riding on it, so they were able to judge it fairly. Of course, they also had a different judging panel that year, and that may have changed the results too.
Back to my review of the DVD (LOL), Dave listed the six foods that work (to create the leanest body possible):
1. Egg white
6. Brown Rice
7. Sweet Potato
Brown rice and sweet potato were said to be interchangeable.
Dave said he eats 82 ounces of tuna each day by flushing it down with water. Mike said that the monotony of the diet was what he found most striking in the filming of this documentary. Diet is 80-90% of bodybuilding. Anyone who tells who otherwise is just plainly wrong. Bodybuilders will pride themselves in saying that hard training makes the bodybuilder. This truly is a bunch of shit. Nutrition, steroids, and genetics are the top three factors (the order is difficult to say). Training is dead last on that list. You can train like a koala bear, but if you juice hard, eat big, and have the right genes, you WILL grow. Plenty of bodybuilders (Paul Dillett and Flex Wheeler as just two examples) show this perfectly. While Dave was eating all that food, he really didn't appear to be enjoying it. Now THAT is what makes a bodybuilder - the ability to stay disciplined in the KITCHEN - this takes place in the 23 hours of the day when they are not in the gym. THAT is where it really matters. The gym means nothing compared to the kitchen - never believe otherwise.
Dave said that he was able to gain muscle going into a show during contest prep because he does things so ahead of schedule. This explains his comment about gaining muscle going into a show despite working around injuries. I now realize that Dave wasn't a typical bodybuilder in this manner (many of whom diet 12 weeks out at the very most). He seems to be one who is very intelligent with his contest preparation. Unlike some who don't start their diet until too late and need to take dangerous diuretics to make up for it! Dave said that his body fat was 2.5% but that seemed a bit low to me. Although it is quite possible his body fat WAS that low, it is all a matter of how it looks - and Dave himself said he was "waterlogged". It sounded to me like a typical bodybuilder who is too hard on himself and is delusional about what he truly looks like. Bertil Fox said that he would always see a skinny guy looking back at him in the gym mirror. LOL. While I disagree that Dave was waterlogged, his body fat might very well have been 2.5%, but I've seen others with 3.5% looking just as shredded (Claude Groulx at the 2003 Masters Mr. Olympia Contest for example).
It all depends on how it looks on your body. Just because Tommi Thorvildsen outweighed Ronnie Coleman at the 2002 Mr. Olympia Contest by 15 pounds at a shorter height doesn't mean he looked better than Ronnie.
Next up was the night before the show, while tanning lotion was applied with sponge brushes to Dave and his girlfriend while they are almost naked. The tan really helps to bring out muscular definition in competitive bodybuilders. Dave said that bodybuilding causes neuroses and his girlfriend said her neuroses have nothing to do with bodybuilding. LOL.
At the day of the show, Dave got an unexpected shock - HE WASN'T ALLOWED TO DO THE SHOW! Crazy...Dave was obviously devastated. My question is: how the hell did he not know about this earlier? I have to say that I'm the type of guy who is always on the ball - nothing gets passed me. I would have known if I wasn't qualified. My question would then be: how did Dave not know? My guess is that it was some very strange loophole that would have taken a lot of time and research to figure out. He may have even been told by misinformed people that he was indeed qualified. After all, earlier in the DVD he was reading an email from a judge who told him not to do the show - but no mention was made by the judge that he wasn't even qualified to begin with! I couldn't imagine the devastation it must have been for Dave and his girlfriend to have to hear this news in a carb depleted state with such a low body fat. That stuff affects the brain! Don't think for a second it would be easy to be that shredded, because the body functions a lot less efficiently with such a low body fat.
Somebody on stage explained that nobody should have to kill themselves to complete this show (dehydration for example). This was said to possibly be about Dave since the year before he was cramping before the show. Something that NO DVD would ever explain is that there are rampant roids and chemicals behind lots of competitors. It would be sheer speculation to suggest that Dave was on any type of performance enhancing substances or diuretics, but this is also common sense. You don't get painful cramps just because you're thirsty and ate a lot of chicken! I only wish that one day a DVD came out that truly DID explain the steroids behind bodybuilding - could you imagine how well that would sell?? Everyone would want a copy. And it would be "keeping it real" as opposed to most DVDs which laughably suggest that hard training is more important than steroids (LOL!!). OK, maybe I'm a bit bitter about this, I just hate to see people selling supplements with pictures of bodies of people so obviously on steroids and deceiving beginner bodybuilders who will in turn naively purchase these supplements on the basis that it was the supplement (and not the steroids) which caused that growth. Supplements do work, but they aren't even close to being as effective as steroids and that's a fact! Tom Platz said it himself in his DVDs.
It was said in the DVD that at the local level the difference in quality between the first place finisher and the last place finisher is significant - this is definitely the truth.
Dave's girlfriend dyed her hair blonde for the show and changed her hairstyle as well as removed the glasses. It was AMAZING how much different she looked. Almost like a different person. LOL. I feel that way sometimes (the difference between having a good haircut and shaving versus having messy hair and a five o'clock shadow). People really do have the ability to look completely different.
Next up was the East Coast Classic Competition. The lineup was quickly shown and Dave appeared to be the clear winner. He was huge and shredded with a good shape. He sort of had a Mike Quinn physique in that he looked like a five foot and eight inch powerhouse. He looked as strong as he was built. This is something that comes with time as muscle maturity does not develop overnight.
There were definitely some other top rate guys at the show, and some appeared to be in Dave's league, but from the footage shown it still seemed to be that Dave was the obvious winner. King Kamali even showed up in full gear to guest pose. LOL.
Vicky won her class in the masters division! And some other classes to boot. She was in the shape of her life. Physique aside, she even won the best poser award. Jennifer won her class as well and went on to beat Vicky for the overall.
Dave was announced by his brother to be "in extreme intestinal distress." I have no idea what this could mean, but I would assume that he possibly overdid the dieting and I'll leave it at that. I always admired Lee Haney for his balance. As amazing as he was, he never overdid it. Too much intensity causes high blood pressure and heart attacks - too much intensity might be the difference between winning and getting second. Rich Gaspari was quite possibly too intense and this lack of balance may have prevented him from beating Haney. However, I would say it was Haney's superior structural genetics which gave him the wins over Gaspari.
See Rich Gaspari and Lee Haney battle out for gold at the 1986-1988 Mr. Olympia contests!
Check In Depth Mr. Olympia Contest Pages Here.
Victor DelCampo ended up coming second in his class! Not bad at all for a guy who likes to party as much as he likes to bodybuild! Dave ended up winning the whole show!
Isn't it amazing that this documentary turned out basically exactly as Mike probably wanted it too? All the results were there including some drama when Dave wasn't allowed to compete but ended up being allowed in the end. Talk about enough to make for a great story.
In the weeks following the contest Jenn gained 10 pounds and Dave gained 35. This is actually a moderate weight gain compared to some that I've seen before. Many bodybuilders gain 60. I've even heard of weight gains of 35 pounds made in literally just a few weeks after a show. Hopefully Mike trains for health and not just to win contests.
Overall, this was a great addition to my bodybuilding collection. It worked out surprisingly well - perhaps a little too well. I kind of wonder if any of it was staged because the story unfolded perfectly, just like a Hollywood production. It really helped for viewers to understand what goes on in the minds of bodybuilders and what drives them. I sometimes wonder exactly how much bodybuilding makes up the self esteem of some of these competitors and what it would do to them if they were not looking as they do all the time. I really have no idea what that might be. In any case, this was a great video in that it was extremely unique. It had a great documentary feel to it, just as good as any that I've seen. My guess is that Mike observed what makes a documentary work and was very intelligent in applying the same principles here. I think anyone watching this will feel the same way. Due to its uniqueness, I definitely have to give this DVD my recommendation.
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Now here are some comments that were emailed to me from Mike Pulcinella, producer of the DVD:
Thanks for a wonderful review! I'm so glad you enjoyed the DVD and I'm pleased that through your words, others will now get the news of Raising The Bar.
I had to laugh a bit when you said that things worked out "a little too well" in terms of the story of RTB. You are absolutely right! I had an independent filmmaker swear to me that he thought the contest day drama was scripted. I assure you NOTHING was staged. That was exactly how it went down. My objective was to be as truthful as possible no matter what happened. If Dave and Jenn had not won the show then the DVD would have been about the pain and disappointment of professional bodybuilding, instead of the triumphs.
You are also right when you say that no DVD will show the reality of steroid use in bodybuilding. That is because no one will speak on camera about the subject! I realized early on that there would be a big hole in my documentary if I didn't discuss steriods. But time after time people would run scared or ask me to turn off my camera if the subject was brought up.
Once again, thanks so much for taking the time to review our doc. I will be sure to credit you properly if we use excerpts from it.
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